Al-Ahram Weekly Online   3 - 9 March 2005
Issue No. 732
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Dig days:

Zahi Hawass

The controversy over King Tut

By Zahi Hawass

Four Egyptian individuals objected to the recent examination of King Tut. Their objection was not based on scientific evidence. Rather, one of the objectors wanted his name in the media and used his objection as an excuse to be in the newspapers. The second was upset because in the past he had wanted to do DNA testing on the mummy but the minister of culture, Farouk Hosni, refused his request because DNA testing had not been found to be accurate when dealing with mummies. He was therefore upset that another team was being allowed to do an examination of the mummy. This person acted like the devil. When he was on TV, his face was filled with fire, jealousy and hatred. It was a case of sour grapes. The third was a young archaeologist who believes he is an expert in mummies when in fact he is a novice who has the knowledge in archaeology of a recent graduate from university. The fourth, however, is a good friend of mine whom I respect. He was the one who first initiated the project, but resigned because of a disagreement we had. He wanted to control the reading of the CT-scan, and I wanted experts to read it to ensure it was read accurately without any speculation.

The whole world respected this scientific work and admired the Egyptian team who conducted the research, and it became a hot topic of discussion in newspapers all over the world. Yet one of the objections raised was to the effect that the examination did not follow scientific methods, and that no one on the team was a specialist in mummies. This was crazy! The team that conducted the research was a group of top archaeologists and experts in conservation from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), and this elite team was lead by me personally.

We moved the mummy carefully to the CT-scanner, which was operated by an expert in the use of this machinery, Hani Abdel-Rahman. The data was to be analysed by top radiologists, pathologists and anthropologists. The objecting group believes the mummy should be put on a table to protect it. The mummy is in 13 pieces, consisting of isolated blocks. We could not, therefore, move the pieces that were put in a wooden tray above sand.

We did not announce the exact time of the research because we did not want thousands of people in the tomb disturbing the work. I made a deal with the Egyptian media and TV so they would be the first to publish the research, and we had local reporters at the site as well as French, Japanese and National Geographic TV reporters. National Geographic and Siemens donated the CT- scanning machine for the project. We gave National Geographic TV the story, like other TV stations from all over the world. We have to thank National Geographic for their cooperation and support in this important project.

While we were making preparations we had held a competition between National Geographic and the Discovery channel. We chose National Geographic because their proposal was better for the SCA. This shows the amount of competition between respected channels around the world to work in Egypt.

It is hard to believe how many issues were raised without anyone contacting us to learn the truth. We are doing scientific research on royal and non-royal mummies to understand important scientific information about their life, health, and diseases. Our work will be remembered and history will record that this seminal scientific work was carried out by an Egyptian team. People should be proud of the significant scientific work that is being done in Egypt and not raise objections in the newspapers just to cause a stir.

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